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IT Worker at Panama Papers Law Firm Detained in Geneva

June 16, 2016, 11:46 AM UTC
View of a sign outside the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are in Panama City, on April 4, 2016. A massive leak -coming from Mossack Fonseca- of 11.5 million tax documents on Sunday exposed the secret offshore dealings of aides to Russian president Vladimir Putin, world leaders and celebrities including Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures -- including 12 current or former heads of states. AFP PHOTO/ Rodrigo ARANGUA / AFP / RODRIGO ARANGUA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Rodrigo Arangua—AFP via Getty Images

A computer technician at the Geneva office of the law firm at the center of the Panama Papers leak was detained several days ago on suspicion of recently removing large amounts of data, Swiss newspaper Le Temps reported Wednesday, citing a source close to the case.

A spokesman for the Geneva prosecutor’s office confirmed to Reuters that it had opened an investigation following a criminal complaint by the law firm, Mossack Fonseca, but declined to comment further.

Panama-based Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in setting up offshore companies, has denied wrongdoing and said it was the victim of a data hack.

In a statement late Wednesday, Mossack Fonseca said it had filed complaints in several places against people who might have been involved with breaching its data.

“We are confident that the authorities in each of these countries will carry out the corresponding processes transparently and effectively in every case,” it said.

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The paper said the suspect detained in Geneva had denied any wrongdoing but was accused of theft of data, unauthorized access, and breach of trust following a complaint lodged by Mossack Fonseca.

The newspaper said there was no evidence the detained man was responsible for the massive Panama Papers data leak in April, which embarrassed several world leaders and shone a spotlight on the shadowy world of offshore companies.

The paper said the prosecutor had searched the company’s office and seized computer equipment, and checks were underway to see if the detained man had stolen data and, if so, how much and when.

The prosecutor’s spokesman declined to comment on that information.

The Geneva prosecutor’s office began a criminal inquiry in early April, shortly after the leaks that revealed many offshore companies set up by lawyers and institutions in the Swiss financial center.